From the Herald
THIS week, the Indian parliament passed a piece of legislation so technical and specialised that it escaped the attention of Europe and America. But millions of people in a fourth continent, Africa, will die as a result of the new patent law. This is the ugly underbelly of globalisation.
India is the world's biggest manufacturer of the cheap, generic drugs used to treat HIV/Aids. As a result of the new law, it will be illegal to copy new, branded drugs. The annual cost of Aids treatment could rise from dollars -200 (- pounds107) a year per person in Africa using copycat drugs to dollars -4800 (- pounds2570) a year using the trademarked products of the big pharmaceutical companies.
No developing country could even contemplate treatment at those prices. All drugs produced since 1995 are covered by the new law. Aids is a disease which develops resistance to treatment, so new medication is supremely important. There is much excitement, for example, about a three-in-one drug, which will replace the current complicated regime where patients must take lots of different medicine at different times of the day. The new, streamlined pill has obvious benefits for everyone, not least the poorest Africans.